by Ryan Torok, Jewish Journal, March 19, 2015

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) annual Los Angeles dinner was themed “What You Do Matters.”

Actor Gary Sinese honored the liberators and survivors present at the March 16 evening event at the Beverly Hilton hotel and spoke of the “privilege of hearing from survivors” as he introduced from the audience Joshua Kaufman, who was rescued near death from Dachau by American soldier Daniel Gillespie. The two men were reunited nearly 70 years later for a History Channel documentary, which showed Kaufman, the survivor, kissing the hand and foot of his liberator, saying, “I have everything in my life because of him,” as Gillespie gently protested the humble offerings of thanks.

Dinner co-chairs Sheryl and Ken Pressberg and Stacy and Jesse Sharf spoke to the 750 attendees of the personal impact the museum has had on them and their families, and Joshua B. Bolten, USHMM vice chairman, introduced the night’s honoree, scholar and frequent Journal contributor, Michael Berenbaum, who as project director oversaw the creation of the museum and went on to become director of the museum’s U.S. Holocaust Research Institute.

Bolton recalled how Berenbaum, as a young rabbi, officiated at Bolton’s father’s funeral, calling him “a complex man of simple principles.” Bolton applied the same words to Berenbaum, as well, calling the American Jewish University scholar an “eloquent and versatile scholar, teacher and adviser.”

In his remarks, Berenbaum spoke of how descendants of survivors in the 1950s and ’60s who had questions about what had happened were met by an “indelible” silence. “There are some things survivors know that we can never know,” Berenbaum said.

And yet he has spent his entire career telling and explaining that history: “We were not witnesses, but we have lived in the presence of witnesses,” Berenbaum said, making us responsible for passing on their stories so that history will not be repeated.

The night’s featured speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, also spoke of the importance of studying history. Much of her talk focused on the strengths and accomplishments of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The message of the evening was that the USHMM — as a teller of stories and a history museum — will forever ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust cannot be forgotten.

— Susan Freudenheim, Executive Editor


Sally Drucker of Los Angeles turned 100 years old on March 15. She was born Sally Weihrauch in Worcester, Mass., after World War II, and moved to L.A., where she raised her family and became an active member of Temple Beth Am. She celebrated with family and friends at her home in Park La Brea.


A man with deep Los Angeles Jewish roots has donated a naming gift of $5 million to the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, which will now be known as the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies.

Alan Leve, 87, is the president of the Culver City-based Ohmega Technologies. A UCLA alumnus, he was born in Boyle Heights at a time when the community was still predominantly Jewish. His grandmother, the late Hinda Schonfeld, wife of Jacob, made a distinct impression on him that lasts to this day.

“My grandmother had no fame, no material assets of any value; but everyone gravitated to her because of her warmth and generosity of spirit,” Leve said in a statement on UCLA’s website. “I realized then that who you are is more important than what you have.”

Schonfeld, in part, inspired Leve’s recent gift. Among other things, the money will allow the school to start the Hinda and Jacob Schonfeld Boyle Heights Collection, which will celebrate the Jewish history of the East Los Angeles neighborhood by including archival materials and artifacts related to its past.

Additionally, the money will support UCLA Jewish studies’ undergraduate and graduate students through the creation of the Alan D. Leve Endowment for Student Excellence; attract international scholars to UCLA as part of the Etta and Milton Leve Scholar-in-Residence Program (named for Leve’s late parents); and provide support for faculty with the Alan D. Leve Endowment for Teaching Innovation. The Alan D. Leve Endowment for Research Innovation will support faculty and graduate student research.

“The Jewish presence in academic, social and cultural life on the UCLA campus is strong, and Alan Leve’s generosity helps to ensure its continued vitality,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in a statement on the UCLA website. “We are proud of the role that the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA — through many other research centers, faculty members, students and public programming — play in the international, national and local dialogue about Judaism.”

The UCLA Jewish Studies Center was founded in 1994.


Steve Tisch, an Oscar-winning producer (“Forrest Gump”), has donated $10 million to Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Department of Film and Television. The naming gift turns the department into a “full-fledged school,” now known as The Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at TAU.

The donation “play(s) a major role in helping further cement Israel’s growing reputation as ‘Hollywood on the Mediterranean,’ ” a March 5 American Friends of Tel Aviv University press release said.

TAU has fostered some of Israel’s most significant talents in film and television, including Gideon Raff (“Homeland”); Hagai Levi (“The Affair,” “In Treatment”); and acclaimed student filmmaker Hadas Ayalon.

“The donation from Mr. Tisch is a milestone in Israel’s film and TV industry that will have a lasting impact, providing aspiring students with even more support to achieve their dreams and share their creative stories with the world,” Raff said in a statement.

Tisch is a partner at Escape Artists Productions and the co-owner, chairman and executive vice president of the New York Giants football team. He has previously contributed funds to the David Geffen School of Medicine, which operates the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program, and he sits on the board of trustees at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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